Today we raise our fists high and put our hands together in celebration of our Feature Girl Warrior, award winning author, international speaker and sought after consultant, Monique Gray Smith, a mixed heritage woman of Cree, Lakota, and Scottish descent and the proud Mom of thirteen-year old twins. Monique has been running her business, Little Drum Consulting since 1996. Her career has focused on fostering paradigm shifts that emphasize the strength and resiliency of the First Peoples in Canada. Monique’s strong understanding of education has led her to work as the Executive Director for Aboriginal Head Start Association of BC, the National Aboriginal Advisor for Roots of Empathy, as well as an instructor for the Justice Institute of BC. Her leadership in the field of Aboriginal Education led her to create a resource called The Ripple Effect of Resiliency: Strategies for Fostering Resiliency with Indigenous Children. Monique’s first published novel, Tilly: A Story of Hope and Resilience won the 2014 Burt Award for First Nation, Métis and Inuit Literature. Her first children’s book, My Heart Fills with Happiness recently won the 2017 Christie Harris BC Book Award for Children’s Literature. Monique has three books coming out in 2018, each of them with a theme of reconciliation and resilience. Monique has been sober and involved in her healing journey for over 26 years and is well known for her storytelling, spirit of generosity and focus on resilience.
What makes you a Girl Warrior?
I have to be honest and say I have never thought of myself in the context of a Girl Warrior before. I see myself as a woman who is self-determined. Meaning, I am designing my life, not sitting back and letting life happen to me.
You’re an award winning author, international speaker and sought after consultant. What is your source of inspiration and what motivates you?
My inspiration comes from my children and my Ancestors. I watch my children, who are twins and are about to turn 14, and how much courage they have to try new things, go to new schools, make friends, etc. and that inspires me immensely. I am also deeply inspired by my Ancestors and all they went through in order for me to have both the opportunities and privileges I am blessed to have today.
Tell us about Little Drum Consulting and your work with the First Peoples in Canada. What do we need to know for sure?
I have been running Little Drum Consulting since 1996 and have had the privilege to work in our reserve, urban and Métis settlements across Canada and the one thing I know for sure is that Indigenous people are profoundly resilient! When one takes time to understand Canadian history, and not just the history we’ve been told in our school text books for generations, but a broad history that includes honest and true Indigenous experience, it becomes evident just how resilient we are as Indigenous people.
Your first published novel, Tilly: A Story of Hope and Resilience won the 2014 Burt Award for First Nation, Métis and Inuit Literature and your first children’s book, My Heart Fills with Happiness recently won the 2017 Christie Harris BC Book Award for Children’s Literature. Congratulations! What has it meant to you to receive such praise and accolades for your writing and to be honoured this way? Has it changed your life in any way?
Both of those books winning were shocks to me, especially Tilly. You see, I never saw myself as a writer so to even have published books was a huge celebration for me, and now to have them be acknowledged through awards is quite something.
Winning these awards has provided me with opportunities to share my writing, ideas and hopes to a larger audience, it has also provided me with a sense of gratitude that has grown in ways I am not able to describe. I also think winning these awards has not only changed my life, but also my children. They have witnessed what can happen when you work hard, when you surround yourself with people who believe in you and want the best for you and when you follow the voice inside that says, “I don’t know how, yet, but we have to do this.”
What has been your biggest challenge?
My continued sobriety. I have been sober now for over 26 years, but there are hours, days and weeks when it is still difficult.
What obstacles have you overcome and walls have you broken down?
I think the obstacles and walls have been my own self-limiting beliefs about who and how I could be in the world. This is still a daily process, don’t get me wrong, but I have worked hard mentally, emotionally and spiritually to alter these limiting self-perceptions and beliefs.
What would you say to your younger Girl Warrior?
“All good things in their rightful time my girl. All good things in their rightful time.” I am someone who works hard to make things happen; however, I’ve come to learn that sometimes pushing and pushing to make something happen isn’t always a good thing. There is a delicate balance between working hard to make things happen and believing in divine timing.
What would you say to future Girl Warriors looking for inspiration?
When you are setting a goal or wanting something to happen, come to know and understand that there are 3 answers to any question:
- Not Yet
- I’ve got something even better in store for you.
And to know that sometimes what feels like rejection can actually be that we are being protected.
Who is/are your Girl Warrior hero(s) and why?
Dr. Maria Campbell, Dr. Tracy Lindberg, EdenRobinson, Dr. Patti Laboucan-Benson, Julie Flett, Alice Bracegirdle, Marilyn Dumont, Tantoo Cardinal, Shelagh Rogers and Chastity Davis. These are all women who were and are ahead of their time. Many of them, through their work and their courage, have opened doors and created pathways for me to be able to do what I am doing today. Some of them are women I stand beside today in our journeys. All of them create wellness in the world by using the gifts they’ve been blessed with and for me, that is inspiring!
In the immediate future, we launch Speaking our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation on Saturday, Sept 30. I am incredibly excited about this day as it is an opportunity for me to publicly acknowledge and hold up the youth and adult voices who contributed to the book.
In a broader sense, I have a completed novel called Tilly and Elders that I am hoping to sell by Christmas. It is a story of Tilly and a group of 7 Indigenous elders who do a road trip from Vancouver to Albuquerque, NM for the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow. It is a book full of humour, adventure and the beauty and wisdom of our Elders.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Well, my twins will have graduated high school and perhaps will be in post-secondary or travelling the world and having another form of education, so I will have a different level of freedom. I see myself spending part of the year in Sante Fe or among the red rocks somewhere, writing. I also see my wife and I travelling more and experiencing life in a different way, as parents no longer responsible for the day to day of child rearing.
If a biographical film were made of your life, what would it be called?
Yes, you can!
To learn more about Monique visit her website: www.moniquegraysmith.com
Follow Monique on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MoniqueGraySmith/
On Twitter at https://twitter.com/ltldrum
YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/user/ltldrum/videos